Our apologies in advance as both Sarah and I recognize it’s been far too long since we last fed our “blog”, but as is the case for many of us with the best of intentions, sometimes life and circumstance just get in the way. With that said, things seem to have quieted down enough for us to push out another excerpt from our upcoming book, this time from Chapter 6 which talks about things that influence us and sometimes guide our actions. You may find this post is perhaps more practical then introspective, but we hope just as meaningful.

Experience has taught me that our lives and behaviours are very much influenced by the compulsions we feel to adhere to the influences of the society we are born into. Understanding how these influences affect behaviour can be like unleashing our inner Jedi and for an experienced investigator the key to unlocking invaluable knowledge to help in apprehending “bad guys” or resolving crisis and conflict.

Take the influence of likability for instance, being likeable goes a long way towards influencing positive outcomes. It makes sense, how difficult is it to listen to someone we don’t like, let alone be persuaded or influenced by them? Professor, author and psychologist Robert Cialdini spoke to this point in his video The Science of Persuasion. According to Cialdini there are three important factors that increase likability:

People who are similar to us.
People who pay us compliments.
People who cooperate with us.

Citing a study that speaks to these factors, Cialdini said that researchers found that business persons who met with perspective business associates were ninety percent more likely to close the deal if both sides spent some time getting to know the other side on a personal level through connection and communication. This was in fact a forty percent increase from those in the study who approached the same scenario with the attitude that time was money so let’s get down to business.   

From my own experiences as an investigator, I believe Cialdini’s three factors do increase likability, but I would also add a fourth: the ability to laugh at oneself and use self-deprecating humour. I believe these four elements are key to influencing likability and building those important connections with other people.

In TV and movies a prevalent interview tactic is the “good cop/bad cop” routine. The idea being that a suspect will draw quickly away from the unlikable “bad cop”, but will then draw closer to the likeable “good cop.” This may make sense as it does exploit the likability influence, however, in my view this is a tact that most investigators stay away from and with good reason. Statement admissibility will be judged in part on the treatment of the accused by all police officers they came in contact with prior to he/she ever making admissions or statements in an interview. If in this scenario the “bad cop” is too bad, too overbearing, or even threatening, there is a likelihood that any statements made by the suspect to the more likeable officer could be in jeopardy. If the Court identifies threats, coercion or inducements that may have come through in the bad cop’s role, the statements may be dismissed. So instead, most interviewers take a different approach and work on proper rapport building, seeking out that commonality, being empathetic to the accused’s plight, actually listening, and focusing on building a connection to the suspect, thus staying clear of any land mines the “bad cop” act can create.

Humour in this phase can also be used in creating a less adversarial and more likeable environment for statement taking. One such officer I know is an expert at this. Through discussions around his receding hairlines, his pot belly and his commentary of not missing too many meals, his expressions and tone build likability quickly and even the most seasoned of criminals are persuaded to at least listen to him in the interview suite.

For me, I have found that having a simple shtick that could make others smile is one of the ways I have learned to create positive presence in the lives of people I come in contact with in often tragic and sad circumstances. By simply wearing fancy, bold, sometimes obscenely colourful socks I have been able to produce humour and connections with people during often the darkest times of their lives. On more then one occasion I have watched people go from crying to smiling and sometimes even laughing out loud when they get a glimpse of my vibrant purple, pink or whatever colour of the rainbow socks are peaking out from the bottom of my suit pants. For me the socks become a jump off point for the introduction of humour or discussions on why I wear this often embarrassing apparel. Over time the socks become strangely meaningful for some victim families as I explain that they are worn as a sacrifice to fashion to make people smile. I have gotten frequent requests over the years to roll up my pant leg and reveal that day’s fashion blasphemy. In turn, for the smiles and laughs the socks generate, I have been rewarded with a steady stream of new pairs coming into my collection as a gesture of thanks, mostly from family members of murder victim’s I have gotten to know over time. A reciprocal effect for creating this positive, unexpected light-hearted presence, and their way of ensuring my tradition carries on for others.

As a lesson, the likability influence teaches us that if we want to a create positive presence and connections in the lives of people we meet that it is important that we take the time to be genuine and ask them about their lives. In doing so, the law of this influence is more likely to be effective and even thrive when we engage and create real connections through finding those commonalities, paying honest compliments, and taking time to laugh at oneself.

Thanks for hanging in with us…

Dave and Sarah